BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — While I’ve decided to live a childfree lifestyle, the Air Force, in its infinite wisdom, saw the need to issue me two kids. They are both straight out of technical training and brand new to the Air Force — and one is still too young to accept an adult beverage.
Let’s be honest. As children will do, they totally cut into my “me time.”
In all seriousness, though, these Airmen are bright, young women with an incredible future ahead of them, and I am duty-bound to ensure that doesn’t change.
Perhaps like many supervisors, sometimes I feel like a parent. I am responsible for these women and their development as Airmen. I have a vested interest in their success and a powerful role in their morale.
Sometimes that responsibility is easy, but sometimes that responsibility bolts me into action in the middle of the night.
One of my Airmen calls me from the side of the busiest highway in Denver, nearly in tears, and tells me that she had just been in her first car accident. As any good parent would do, I jump out of bed in my pajama pants and head out the door without thinking twice. In a flurry of hands-free phone calls to our first sergeant and my Airman, who is now backing up the highway for miles, we square everything away and get her back to base with the help of the police and a tow truck driver.
It was after everything was taken care of and she was back in her room that I truly realized being a supervisor was about more than solving a problem.
It was time to listen. She had been through her first car accident. She was in a brand new city. She was on her own for the first time. All things combined, I understood why she was so distraught. For me, this was a challenge to overcome; but for her, this may have been one of her most terrifying experiences. I knew I had to listen.
This experience taught me two valuable lessons. One, if my Airmen are in trouble, I need them to know they can trust me to take care of them. And two, I need a new pair of pajama pants because crushed blue velvet went out of style two decades ago.
How do I get these young Airmen to trust me? I am nearly 10 years older, and an entire generation separates my interests from theirs. How can I relate?